Waste management with a twist

Valerie Hoff
Marketing Manager
TLA Engineering & Planning, Inc.
Roseville, California
Member, APWA Small Cities/Rural Communities Forum

In 1989, California Assembly Bill 939, known as the Integrated Waste Management Act, was passed in light of continuously increasing waste and diminishing landfill capacity. As a result, the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) was established. CIWMB established and continues to oversee the disposal reporting system, along with facility and program planning. AB 939 mandates a reduction of waste being disposed of and jurisdictions were required to meet diversion goals of 25% by 1995 and 50% by the year 2000. AB 939 also established an integrated framework for program implementation, solid waste planning, and solid waste facility and landfill compliance.

The CIWMB promotes a "Zero Waste California" in partnership with local governments, industry and the public. This means managing the estimated 88 million tons of waste generated each year by reducing waste whenever possible, promoting the management of all materials to their highest and best use, regulating the handling, processing and disposal of solid waste, and protecting public health and safety and the environment.(1)

If a community does not comply with the CIWMB requirements to reduce waste and remain at 50% thereafter, it can face fines of $10,000 per day. This is a good incentive to create programs to reduce waste, increase awareness, promote recycling opportunities and educate the public.

Recently, Anne Magana, Administrator of the Consolidated Waste Management Authority (CWMA) of Tulare County, spoke about their successful program from the perspective of smaller cities and rural communities working together to meet the state standards.

Please give us some background on the formation of CWMA of Tulare County. CIWMB created nine geographic areas to oversee the numerous jurisdictions. CWMA is part of the Central Valley South geographic area, and was established as part of a Joint Powers Agreement (JPA) in 1997 to include eight regional agencies. The agencies are the Cities of Dinuba, Exeter, Farmsville, Lindsay, Porterville, Tulare and Visalia, along with Tulare County.

CWMA utilizes the areas' resources and finances to meet the state standards. Alone, these agencies might not have the time, space/location or personnel to manage numerous programs. Through the JPA, it allows the CWMA to utilize many of the state's grants to promote waste management, along with great purchasing power and a regional emphasis on waste management and reduction.

What are some of the programs CWMA utilizes to reduce waste? There are numerous ways that the CWMA encourages the public and industry to be more aware of their waste including curbside, green waste, commercial, and construction and demolition recycling.

Recently, a Litter Abatement Program was started by CWMA, which provides funds to smaller cities that may not have the resources to tackle local litter. These communities track the number of hours and people who worked on designated cleanup days. Based upon the amount of involvement, the community receives funds as a reward for their participation and effort.

The CWMA works with local businesses to analyze their purchasing behaviors. Through the CWMA's educational outreach programs, CWMA evaluates the businesses' procurement decisions to include a standard for purchasing recycled goods. This would include purchasing recycled office paper as well as office furniture constructed from recycled products such as carpet made from recycled tires.

In order to recognize leaders in the waste reduction program, the "WRAP" Award Program has become a coveted acknowledgment. For example, Save Mart received a $1,000 WRAP Award in 2006 for their waste management practice and their efforts to help the environment. Save Mart gives their customers 15› credit for each bag that is reused. This effort reduces the number of plastic bags that find their way into the landfill.

What can the public do to reduce the amount of household and electronic waste that ends up in the landfill? CWMA is making it more convenient for residents to dispose their household hazardous waste. Currently, there is a permanent household hazardous collection site, which is open every Saturday from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. as well as household hazardous waste cleanup events throughout the County of Tulare where residents drop off items such as chemicals, paints, fluorescent tubes, and batteries. As part of this effort, CWMA distributes containers for household batteries at various locations, making it easier for the community to participate in the waste reduction program. CWMA has a greater presence in the community and creates opportunities for maximizing participation and community support.

The CWMA has established relationships with several agencies and nonprofit organizations to accept electronic waste (e-waste) items like computers, televisions, cell phones, VCRs, etc. CWMA works in conjunction with donation centers like Goodwill, Tulare County Recycling Center and Sunset Waste System where residents and local businesses can drop off e-waste items. CWMA coordinates efforts with the Tulare County Youth Corps' Community Service & Employment Training (CSET). CSET's E-Solutions Program accepts all types of electronic waste that can be reused, refurbished, or recycled. Besides accepting e-waste at their E-Solutions' sites, CSET participates in the CWMA community cleanup events, and offers special pickup services. When they receive the e-waste, the e-waste is dismantled and further separated down to their smallest components in order to find the appropriate use for these items...thus avoiding the landfill!

Knowing that most areas have experienced construction and demolition, what can developers, builders, and homeowners do to reduce construction waste? It is surprising to find out just how much construction and demolition waste (C&D Waste) can be reused or recycled. By working with local regulatory agencies, CWMA has established a procedure where construction waste can receive a second life. When a permit is issued for any construction or demolition, the applicant must file a Recycling and Reuse plan. Included with the form is a list of companies throughout the CWMA district that accept construction and demolition waste. The applicant simply lists the materials to be disposed of, including gypsum board, asphalt, copper, steel, glass, lumber, brick, wallboard, and landscaping material, like rocks, soil, tree remains, and green waste.

When the construction or demolition is completed, the items are hauled to the appropriate location(s) as noted during the permit process. C&D items may be dropped off at several recycling companies or the landfill. The CWMA makes it convenient and affordable for contractors to dispose of their C&D waste at the landfill by keeping the fees cost-effective. Once the items are dropped off at the landfill, they are separated and they find a new life. Again, the process is streamlined by the public agency to make it easy on the participants, while adhering to the waste reduction goals of AB 939.

Do you have any successful outreach programs or events that other smaller communities might find of interest? We have several successful outreach programs. By partnering with the community, we have made waste reduction interesting and fun for the whole family. We coordinate as well as participate in the Earth Day event each year. Our Earth Day event is held at Recreation Park (centrally located) in Visalia. At our information booth, we provide literature to educate and promote waste management and reduction as well as the Recycling Wheel. As part of our event, local sponsorship produces the "Recycling Art Show" where local artisans showcase their artwork created from recycled goods. One of the most unusual events is the "Recycled Fashion Show" where things like bicycle tire tubes find a new life as an article of clothing!

  Recycling Wheel

At the Tulare County Fair, Porterville Fair, as well other community events and festivals, CWMA presents a booth that draws in hundreds of families. Participants spin the Recycling Wheel and answer a question about recycling in hopes of winning a prize. Sometimes, family members compete amongst each other to see who can answer the most questions correctly. The Recycling Wheel usually leads to further communication and allows the person to find out more ways to be involved with local waste reduction programs.

The Green Waste Project is a viable program for the reduction of items by local residents and businesses. This includes items that can be composted. Branches, grass clippings, leaves, lumber scraps and wood planks can be placed into "green waste" bins. Some agencies provide seasonal cleanup events that allow residents to drop off their green waste (which is composted); as a bonus, residents are able to take home some of the rich composted material for their landscaping use.

For those in the community who would like to participate in the separation process, CWMA provides information, containers, education, and many recycling solutions for both residential and commercial customers. These services are also available for multi-family units, like apartments and condominiums. We are interested in assisting our communities in their efforts to keep items such as paper, glass, aluminum as well as green, construction, electronic, and universal waste from reaching our landfills.

Any closing remarks? The hurdles that our communities might face are many and sizeable. However, given the ability of governmental agencies to work together, they can accomplish much in the way of waste management and reduction. Through Joint Power Agreements and coordinating effort with California Department of Conservation and the California Integrated Waste Management Board, and local agencies, the lack of staff, finances and resources can be overcome. It is possible to meet (and exceed) the state's goals for 50% waste reduction through a concerted effort of outreach programs, household hazardous materials and waste dropoff locations, and construction and demolition waste reduction plans. These are just a few of the creative solutions that have taken form through efforts by innovative public works departments.

Valerie Hoff can be reached at (916) 786-0685 or vhoff@tlowell.com.

(1) California Integrated Waste Management Board website, copyright 2007